H.E. Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports, delivered the following speech at the Thailand Networking Lunch, held on Friday, 8 March during the ITB 2019 in Berlin, Germany.
Good morning distinguished guests, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen.
It is always a pleasure to be back in Germany and ITB. Thailand is proud to have been a part of this event for forty-five years. It has given us a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
First of all, let me inform you about a historic event in Thailand this year, the Royal Coronation Ceremony for His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, which will take place between May 4 and 6. It is an ancient traditional practice, dating back to over a century ago, to celebrate the accession to the throne of the King of Thailand.
On the fourth of May, a time to celebrate not only by the Thais but from the world, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn will be officially crowned as King Rama the tenth of the Chakri dynasty, according to traditions governing the monarchy.
The earliest process in the preparation of the Royal Coronation Ceremony is to collect water from different important sources in the Kingdom, which will be combined and blessed to be used for the Purification Ceremony for the Royal Coronation Ceremony.
Many of these series of events will be broadcasted through medias but nothing can be compared to being there as a part of the activities or at least go visit the places where the holy water is collected throughout the country.
Ladies and gentlemen
At the Thai pavilion this year, the Thailand tourism team includes eighty-eight exhibitors including seventy-eight hotels and resorts while the others are tour operators and tourism-related agencies. Eighteen are first-time exhibitors at ITB. This year, the Thailand Pavilion has a presence by the Sports Authority of Thailand and Arts of the Kingdom Museum.
The Thai Pavilion has been designed in line with the concept of “Open to the New Shades of Thailand” focusing on the products and services of the emerging tourist destinations in Thailand that have the potential to meet the needs of European tourists.
Beside, the main attractions you usually know from the North, the East, to the South of Thailand, Isan or the Northeast of Thailand is another region worth exploring as it is acclaimed as one of the top 17 places to visit in the world by CNN travel experts, which I am going to tell you more details later.
In 2018, European visitors were up 3.8 percent to 6.7 million. Russia retained its status as the larger source market from Europe with arrivals of 1.4 million. The United Kingdom was the second highest source market followed by Germany, and France while visitors from East Europe grew by 9 percent. The growth is still impressive this year.
In the years ahead, we will emphasise on the promotion of ‘Responsible Tourism.’
Due to our unique geographical location, at the crossroads of Asia and within a few hours flying distance of some of Asia’s populous cities, we are now recognized as the most visited destination from the world. The key will be to manage those numbers. So, we are striving to reduce tourist congestion in the main hubs by promoting emerging provincial destinations, upgrading the standards of safety and security, and lifting a higher level of environmental consciousness across the entire industry.
We are directing the future path of our industry in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Thailand is known all over the world for its superb tourism products and services, as well as the friendliness and hospitality of its people. We now have to better balance quantity versus quality, and deeply focus on improving the management. This will be our agenda to move forward.
To action this strategy, this year, we are undertaking a range of environmental initiatives in different industry and economic sectors. The over-arching theme is ‘Responsible Tourism’ designed to minimise the threat of over tourism.
I am proud to recognise the leading role of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in these commendable nationwide efforts. In its ongoing mission to build on and further enhance the practice of sustainable and responsible tourism, we have launched a series of programmes and campaigns in cooperation with numerous public and private sector partners.
For almost two years now, the ‘Upcycling the Oceans’ still continues. Plastic debris collected from the ocean will be transformed into thread to make fabric; such as, shirts, bags, and shoes.
Another example that reflects a joint effort between private sector and local community in the province of Pattani is Tlejorn-brand recycled flips-flops that are made of ocean debris.
Today, we have brought Tlejorn shoes as souvenirs for you. Please take them before you leave the function.
This zero profit business is a result of the collaboration between Trash Hero volunteers, polymer scientists from local university in ปัตตานี, designer brands, and the locals of Pattani province. The income goes directly to local flips-flop makers and volunteer activities of Trash Hero Pattani Province. For more details, please visit the Tlejorn website.
This year, the Thai government takes the courage to make 147 national parks and marine parks throughout the country stop Styrofoam and Plastic Bags entering into their parks, while so many local administration authorities are working with local convenience shops and general people to end the use of Styrofoam containers or other items and switch to eco-friendly materials or using a lunchbox.
The province of Krabi was awarded the ‘Global Low-Carbon Ecological Scenic Spot’ at the 2018 Annual Session of Global Forum on Human Settlements and Sustainable Cities at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific or ESCAP in Bangkok.
The Thai Government also takes the courage to ban on Smoking at 24 Thai beachfronts to promote clean and safe environment for all. The ban came into effect since last two years.
Allow me to also mention one potential niche market to people with physical challenges. Last year, a group of wheelchair travellers from Europe made their visit to Asia’s first underwater museum in Phang Nga province, and we still see a growing number of this segment. Accordingly, we are stepping up our efforts to improve more facilities to cater to this segment. Thailand has seen that the ‘Wheelchair Scuba Thailand’ project has been initiated and teaches those physically challenged to learn how to dive into the ocean. Recently, Chiara Bordi, Miss Italy 2018’s second runner-up with amputated leg, came to learn a scuba diving with SDI/TDI master-certificate Thai trainer. This is to restate that ‘Tourism for All’ is emphasised in Thailand. We have certified professionals that can look after those who need special care and wish to learn scuba diving in Thailand.
In addition to tourism for all, we also realised that accessibility to tourism information for tourists is also significant. So, an application named TAGTHAI has been created to be a National Tourism Platform that links travel information, products and services of entrepreneurs throughout a value chain. This will let tourists access the necessary and reliable travel information while spending on products and services within the same platform throughout the journey. The application will be launched in early April and can be downloaded and from the App Store and Play Store.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Next, I will show you just a small selection of potential products from recommended emerging destinations. These cities will also focus on responsible tourism in order to make these areas and tourist attractions sustainable, as well as preserve their own local identity.
Chiang Rai: I am sure you are all aware of the amazing rescue of the Wild Boars team of young footballers at the Tham Luang Cave in June-July 2018. Tham Luang is now becoming a major tourist spot in its own right. The Cave itself is undergoing preparation for the visitors with completion expected by the end of this year. However, tourists can visit the exhibition about the entire mission. There are many interesting tourist attractions around it; for example, at Pang Ha community, visitors will learn about the Karen ethnic group’s wisdom on how to make mulberry paper.
Mae Hong Son: This destination is very close to the border with Myanmar, and not far from Chiang Mai. It is characterised by nature and the cultural integration between the Tai Yai ethnic group and Thai people. It is famous for their embroidered woven fabrics. ‘Mae Hong Son Doister CraftStay’ tour focuses on getting tourists to experience the history of the local art and craftwork.
Trang: Located in South Thailand, Trang is known as a ‘foodie haven’ and offers a beach getaway for those who prefer an off-the-beaten track holiday; such as, Ko Muk, and the Emerald Cave. Trang is also recognised as a habitat to the largest group of dugongs, or sea cows in Thailand. At the Ban Nam Rap community, travellers can join us in saving the sea cows by planting sea grass, which is staple food for dugongs.
Ranong – Another hidden gem on the Andaman coast that makes a secluded beach getaway; such as, Ko Phayam We can offer organic farm tour on the island that implements the Sufficiency Economy and way of life to manage community-based tourism. Highlight activities include learning how to tap a rubber tree, processing raw cashew nuts into finished products, and collecting vegetables from a farm for cooking.
Chanthaburi: Chanthaburi is an emerging tourism city close to the border with Cambodia on our rapidly emerging Eastern Economic Corridor. It is most famous for that well-known fruit, durian, which I am sure many of you have tried. Moreover, Chanthaboon community along the riverside greatly reflects the simplicity of life and how it is well conserved by the locals. When you go there, please do make a stop at Baan Luangrajamaitri Historic Inn, which won the Award of Merit in the annual UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. According to the UNESCO, it sparks awareness about heritage conservation and engage over 500 shareholders in investment to restore this 150-year-old building. Furthermore, the ancient markets in Chanthaburi have piloted in promoting the use of straw that is made of lotus stem instead of plastic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Besides the emerging destinations I have just mentioned, there is another destination in the Northeastern part of Thailand, which is gaining interest in our international markets and is one of the gateways to the Greater Mekong Subregion. I am referring to Nakhon Phanom, which borders to Lao PDR. and is connected by the third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River.
If you are a culture venture and enthusiastic cyclist, this province will be a perfect choice that allows you to explore cultures of seven ethnic groups and visit the main city’s most famous stupa, Phrathat Phanom while the cycling experience along the Mekong River makes it one of the country’s most impressive bike routes.
Finally, distinguished guests, let me alert you to some upcoming events which you may find interesting:
- World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony in the second week of March 2019, at the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
- Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+ 2019) in the first week of June 2019, at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, Pattaya.
- Phi Ta Khon Festival in the first week of July 2019, in Loei.
- Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival, in the third week of July 2019, in Ubon Ratchathani.
- MotoGP Thailand in the first week of October 2019, in Buri Ram.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for being with us today. We look forward to working with you. Danke schon thank you, and sawasdee khrap.